One day, my neighbor Martin, a spry nonagenarian, stopped by and said, "Mark says I need a dog." Martin and his teenage grandson Mark are devoted to each other and spend hours building projects in Martin's garage. "Every day Mark says, 'Pop-Pop, you need a dog to keep you company.' " Though he was trying hard not to let on, Martin was clearly tickled at the thought of a dog.
"Sounds like a great idea," I said.
"It's Mark's idea," he corrected me. "Probably won't leave me alone until I get a dog."
So, to keep his grandson happy, Martin went to the animal shelter and brought home a scruffy little dog whose salt-and-pepper whiskers matched his own. He named the dog Andy.
Andy came to visit every day, with Martin in tow. Andy was affectionate to everyone, but most of all to Martin. He fitted into Martin's life as if he'd always been part of it, following him around the house and yard, riding happily along on car trips, and crawling onto Martin's lap to watch TV. The two were inseparable.
A few weeks later, Martin stopped by. "Guess what? I'm watching Melissa's new kitten while they're on vacation. He sure is a cute little guy."
Melissa was Martin's daughter, and the mother of Mark. I hurried next door to see the six-week-old kitten. He was adorable, a tiny fluffball of butterscotch and white with a pale pink nose. I wondered if Andy were jealous. "Is Andy behaving himself?" I asked.
"Oh, yes," Martin said. "He loves this kitten."
A few days later, Martin came over. "I think I have a problem," he said. "Andy loves this new kitten so much, I don't know if I'll be able to give him back to Melissa."
"Oh," I said, going along with his reasoning. "Andy will miss the kitten too much, huh?"
"Come see," Martin said. "Andy sleeps with the kitten and plays with it. He even lets the kitten eat out of his bowl. He sure will miss him if Melissa takes him back home."
"I'm sure he will," I said, smiling to myself as we walked over to Martin's house.
Martin opened his kitchen door, and the kitten came running, followed by Andy. I scooped up the kitten and nuzzled it. "I bet you'll miss this little sweetheart," I said.
"Andy's the one who'll be upset," Martin said. "See?"
I looked down. There was Andy sitting on his hind legs, begging me to give him back the kitten. I set the kitten down, and Andy put his paw around him and licked his face. The kitten nibbled some food from Andy's dish, ignoring his own dish. Andy sat patiently until the kitten finished, and then they scampered off to play.
"What am I going to do?" Martin said.
I chuckled. "I think you're going to have to keep the kitten," I said.
Fortunately, Melissa agreed when she returned. She would find a new kitten; this one clearly belonged with her father and his dog. So Martin gained one more pet to keep him company though it certainly wasn't his idea.